A Wadrobe Malfunction
on Christmas Eve with Anna Campbell
on Christmas Eve with Anna Campbell
About the Author:
ANNA CAMPBELL has won numerous awards for her seven Regency-set romances including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association's favorite historical romance (four times). In 2012, Anna launches an exciting new publishing venture with Grand Central Publishing. She launches her first series, "Sons of Sin", with SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED in October 2012 with A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS to follow in September 2013.
I thought I give the word ‘wardrobe’ a slightly different meaning than I’m sure was intended by the girls – like to keep them on their toes! At a Christmas house party when there’s skullduggery afoot, a nice girl just doesn’t know who might end up sharing a dark, enclosed space with her. The funny thing is I checked the scene I did last year and my heroine ended up locked into a small, dark space with the hero in that one too. Clearly I associate Christmas with hide and seek!-Anna
A Wardrobe Malfunction on Christmas Eve
Hartley Manor, Wiltshire, December, 1823
Surreptitiously Philippa Sanders inched the door open, praying that nobody emerged into the lamplit corridor and caught her in a place where no lady of good reputation should be, especially near midnight on Christmas Eve.
Swift and silent as a cat, she slipped into the room and carefully closed the door behind her. Lord Erskine was downstairs carousing with his cronies. If the last three nights were any indication, his flirtation with the brandy bottle was likely to continue into the early hours. She should be able to search his bedroom undisturbed. The thought did nothing to calm the mad race of her heart. If anyone caught her alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, especially such a notorious gentleman, there would be the devil to pay.
If only the stakes weren’t so high. If only her sister Jenny wasn’t such a ninnyhammer. If only Erskine wasn’t a man who turned even sensible women silly.
Philippa sighed. “If only” wasn’t going to help. It was imperative that she found the compromising letter her henwitted sister had sent Erskine after her engagement to Mr. Gerard Fox was announced last night.
She straightened and surveyed her surroundings by the light of the fire blazing in the hearth. The room was large and luxurious. Clearly her aunt tried to turn Lord Erskine up sweet in the hope that he’d offer for her horse-faced daughter Caroline. Given the trouble his libertine lordship had caused, Philippa almost wished her vile cousin on him. Over the last few days, she’d observed him closely. She couldn’t approve of the cynical light in his eyes and the way he arrogantly assumed that any chit in his vicinity would swoon at his merest word. Philippa wouldn’t however be female without noting what a spectacular specimen of masculinity he was.
She’d worried that it might take too long to locate the letter, but her gaze immediately fell on a beautiful mahogany writing slope left open on the window seat. She rushed toward the window, hardly believing her luck. Then stopped on a choked gasp when she heard the door knob squeak behind her.
Frantically she dived across the few feet to the dressing room, even as she heard the door open behind her. She had time to notice dark coats hanging from rows of pegs and shelves piled with clothing. Hands shaking, she tugged the door closed until she cowered in thick darkness. Thick darkness that smelled surprisingly pleasant with a mixture of leather and soap and sandalwood—and something undefined that teased her nostrils.
Dizzy with fear, she silently prayed for whoever had come in to do what they needed to and go. Much as she strained, she couldn’t hear anything, even with her ear pressed to the door. The thick wood blocked out all sound just as it blocked out all light.
Within seconds, the door jerked open. “What have we here?”
This was beyond awful. Sick with horror, she lurched away, crowding against the coats lined against the back wall. Desperately she struggled not to look at the bare skin below his chin. His shirt dangled from one elegant hand.
“Miss Philippa Sanders.” With unconcealed mockery, he bowed before stepping into the confined space. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
The room had been tiny before. Now it was suffocating. That cursed elusive scent made her head swim as she crushed herself into the wall. Still his tall body remained only inches away. Surely it was her imagination that a subtle heat radiated out to envelop her.
“I mistook the room,” she stammered. She made the error of glancing at his chest. Broad. Powerful. Scattered with a light covering of hair. She gulped. Seeing the farm workers without their shirts from a distance wasn’t at all the same as facing down a half-dressed rake in his bedroom.
A wry smile curled his lips. “By a whole wing, apparently.”
She straightened and glared at him, trying not to notice the way his thick dark hair was ruffled and his green eyes devoured her like a sweetmeat set out for his Christmas delectation. “It’s late. I must return to my room.”
He didn’t step aside. “Not quite yet.”
She summoned every ounce of courage. “Not before you return my sister’s letter at any rate.”
He laughed softly. “I knew there was more to you than the little shadow glowering from the corner.”
She flushed with chagrin. She’d had no idea he’d noticed her, let alone remarked her reactions to him. “Give me Jenny’s letter.”
Dark eyebrows tilted in supercilious inquiry. “Or what? You’ll unfold all my shirts and stamp on them?”
Anger tempered her dread. “A gentleman would return the letter.”
“I’m afraid it’s impossible.”
Her fists clenched at her sides. “What do you intend to do with it?”
His smile broadened. “Why, nothing, my sweet Yuletide burglar. I burned it immediately after I read it.”
Since Jenny’s confession of her stupidity, apprehension had knotted Philippa’s belly. She sucked in her first full breath in what felt like days. “Thank you.” She paused. “I must go.”
“Not just yet, my fascinating Miss Sanders.”
“I’m not your Miss Sanders,” she snapped.
“Not yet, at any rate,” he said mildly, pulling the door shut behind him.
Darkness wrapped around them. Rage and terror spurred her to lurch forward, shoving hard at him. “Let me out of here.”
As he leaned away, she tugged madly at the door knob but even using both hands, she couldn’t budge it. Her shoulder brushed Erskine’s arm as she struggled. To her surprise, he made no attempt to stop her escaping.
“Open this door,” she demanded breathlessly.
“I hope I’ve frightened you sufficiently to discourage you from invading another man’s room,” he said without shifting.
“You’re trying to teach me a lesson?” she hissed incredulously.
That familiar soft laugh played up and down her backbone, and she realized that the evocative scent filling the room was Lord Erskine’s own. The intimacy of recognizing his personal essence scared her more than being trapped in the dark with a rake.
“I am indeed.” In the tight space, she heard him inhale. More unwelcome intimacy. “Step aside.”
He rattled the door knob for what seemed a ridiculous length of time.
“Stop playing games,” she said sharply. “Unlock the door and let me out.”
Philippa sensed the sudden rigidity in his tall body. When he spoke, no trace of humor warmed his deep voice. “It’s jammed.”
*Don't forget to stop by Ramblings From This Chick for Theresa Romain's Scene*
Will a week of seduction...Desperate to save her sister's life, Sidonie Forsythe has agreed to submit herself to a terrible fate: Beyond the foreboding walls of Castle Craven, a notorious, hideously scarred scoundrel will take her virtue over the course of seven sinful nights. Yet instead of a monster, she encounters a man like no other. And during this week, she comes to care for Jonas Merrick in ways that defy all logic-even as a dark secret she carries threatens them both....Spark a lifetime of passionate surrender?Ruthless loner Jonas knows exactly who he is. Should he forget, even for a moment, the curse he bears, a mere glance in the mirror serves as an agonizing reminder. So when the lovely Sidonie turns up on his doorstep, her seduction is an even more delicious prospect than he originally planned. But the hardened outcast is soon moved by her innocent beauty, sharp wit, and surprising courage. Now as dangerous enemies gather at the gate to destroy them, can their new, fragile love survive?
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